Friday, July 21, 2017

The joy of meh over California climate law

I've been following but not talking about the runup to California's recently re-enacted climate legislation, authorizing more action from now to 2030 and removing the legal uncertainty that existed in the previous law over cap-and-trade.

I didn't know what to say about the bill supported by the mainstream environmental groups as part of a deal with industry and Western States Petroleum Association, versus alternatives supported by harder-line enviros. People who knew more than me about what was going on seemed torn (although they eventually lined up one way or another) while people who knew less were very confident.

The good thing about it is that the choice in California was between striking a compromise that still ended up as probably the strongest legislation of any state, versus taking a risk on something stronger that might fall apart. That's not the choice on tap in most other states.

Everyone has biases. The mainstream environmental bias is to make deals, and the hardline bias is to reject deals. I'm pretty amazed that WSPA took the deal - it's going to be hard for them to argue in other blue states in the West that they should accept nothing after having accepted this. That to me is an important gain.

Regardless, this is what we've got, and now executing on it is the important thing.



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Keeping Up With the Times Part I


So some pro-tohedgehog (hate to meet the amateur type) has a post on why people don't trust science, with a nice little Socratic dialog.  Only problem is that pro has not yet emerged from hibernation and things have changed or never were.  Let Eli playfully fisk this with instructions for the whiners

Imagine this hypothetical, but potentially very real, conversation with a non-academic:
1: “This research paper has been published, and therefore is scientifically valid.”
Well usually scientists say something like there is a huge number of papers out there on this point, and if they think that a publication is chancy will let you know but whatever
2: “But it’s paywalled, I can’t access it. How do I know it’s valid?”
There are a number of things a bunny could do.  In Climateball Speak do your due diligence.  First search for it on Google Scholar.  You can search under the name of the author or the title of the paper or whatever.  Then look to the far left hand corner.  Often there is a link to an on line open version


If that does not work, why then you click at the bottom on All xyz versions.  That usually only pops up links only to abstracts, but it sometimes brings up a copy of the paper.  For the example above there are two other links to pdf versions. That's another win.

If not send a nice Email to the corresponding author (usually shown by a superscript, something or other in the on line journal abstract which you find by clicking on the title of the paper) who will, in IPCC speak, very likely send you a copy.  If you are really old fashioned send a re-print card.   It will amuse them if they are as old as Eli, it will confuse them otherwise.  Win-win.

Don't start your Email by accusing the corresponding author of being in the pay of whomever you are venting on that day.  The text of the reprint card is not a bad place to start.

Go to the authors' (all of them, sequentially) web pages.  Authors often list their publications with links to open copies held locally, or to preprints of same.  Only takes a moment

Let's say this doesn't work.  Well you could go to a local university library and try and find the paper.  If it is more than a cup of coffee away, you should check the catalog to see if they have the journal and what you need to get access.  If you are nice they will IPCC level very likely let you in, you may have to show ID, and depending on the circumstance let you use their on line services as well as look in the stacks.  These days with smart phones you don't even have to buy a copy card.  There are, of course, local rules.  Eli has been using this method for years where he lives because his place did not have subscriptions to and he has a nice little deck of copy card.  Here is the policy at the University of Maryland College Park
Catalog Visitors can search the University Libraries catalog from on or off campus, regardless of one's affiliation with the university.

Databases On campus, anyone can access the databases without restriction. Off campus, only currently registered UMD students and currently employed faculty and staff can access the site-licensed databases.

Photocopying and Printing in the Libraries

Photocopying and printing are available for a fee. There are no coin-operated photocopiers or printers in the University Libraries, so visitors will need to purchase a Photocopy Card in order to copy/print. Ask at any library Information & Reference Service Desks for prices and information on obtaining a card. Library computers

Visitors are invited to use public library computers, but first must obtain a guest account. Please note that guest accounts are not compatible with Mac computers that boot only into Mac OS. Apply at any campus library Circulation Desk.

Photo ID is required. Acceptable forms of identification include driver's license, state-issued ID card, passport, military ID, school ID, or other institutional ID with photo and unique identifying number. Library computers are available to users on a first-come, first-served basis. 
Pay attention to local rules, by experience, UK university libraries are much more difficult to get access to but the British Library has an on demand service which delivers electronic copies for £5.35 each. 

You could go to your local town, city, state library and ask for an interlibrary loan or a photocopy, you could even pay the charge to rent or buy the paper (horrors).

But let us say that none of that works for you.  In a pinch, of course there is always sci-hub but as with Kodi add ons there are issues oh my there are issues and more issues.  In this sort of thing Dr. Ruth has good advice.

UPDATE:  Read the comments after reading the post.  The Ever Helpful Bunnies (You know who you are) have added a number of additional ways to get what you want. 

Finally a word about publication policies.  Granting agencies the world around have in the past decade required that publications their work sponsors be openly available, often after a six month to a year period.  Publishers have responded by charging different amounts for publications that are immediately open as opposed to those that are open after embargo.

Some publishers (even reputable ones) have gone to a completely open publication model with costs covered by either the authors or by the granting agencies or their institutions

So yes Virgina, if you can't get a copy of a published paper you are not trying very hard.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Rumination on Energy Costs


So Eli returns from vacation with a report from Ethon who has taken up Twitter on the economics of energy sources.  To put it simply, nuclear and hydro are very long term investments, efficiency, wind and solar are investments and fossil fuels are an addiction.

The first thing to understand is that each of these is subsidized.  The second is that proponents of each of these thinks all the others are subsidized and their favorite is not.  That's another post.

The cost of fossil fuels is pretty much the cost of the coal, oil and gas, although, of course, there are infrastructure costs, but a reasonable estimate (and Eli is the most reasonable bunny you could ever meet, as a colleague just wrote, reasonably insane perhaps, but reasonable nonetheless) .  To be more exact the cost of the fuel is about 70% of the total cost and a portion of the capital cost is the infrastructure to move the fossil fuel to its final resting place before it goes up in smoke (e.g. pipelines, railroads, ships, etc).

The competition, efficiency, nuclear, hydro, solar and wind are capital intensive.  For practical purposes, efficiency is 100% capital, an upfront cost.  At least in theory people weigh the cost of money vs. the money they save, and that depends on the interest rate.  That's theory.  As a practical matter people and businesses are very reluctant to invest even with payback periods of a year or two.

That explains the role of regulations and subsidies, to get people to do what they rationally should do but irrationally won't.  Good examples of this are, for example, power companies paying or subsidizing compact fluorescent bulbs so they didn't have to build more power plants, or building code insulation requirements, or fleet mileage, etc.  Each of these can be played but each of these has a rational effect.

Nuclear, hydro, wind solar are the opposite of fossil fuels with about 70% up front capital cost and 30% operating costs (close enough).

Nuclear to start, comes in large lumps and has a long time between when you issue the bonds to build, spend the money to build and the plant comes on line and starts trading electrons for cash to pay the bonds.  This can only be done by governments, or with guarantees from the government.  The most successful example is France, which took a political decision in the 1960s/70s to go nuclear for electrical generation and provided the resources to do so to EDF which is 85% government owned.

Big hydro is pretty much the same story with the add on that the lake behind the dam covers a lot of ground which requires eminent domain seizures.

So it is pretty clear that nuclear/hydro build out is best suited to places with strong, stable (gotta last more than a decade, let's not talk about the proliferation risk) and well funded central governments, China, France, Russia, maybe India.  The US could do it, but the  free market folk and the NIMBYs would never allow it. (Caveat:  Folk have been talking about small nukes for almost as long as fusion.  Eli is a show me bunny)

Wind and solar are distributed.  The generating facilities are small and inexpensive, Eli could even affords some rooftop solar, and even industrial strength wind and solar are cheap as compared to hydro and nuclear, well within the reach of your local source of electrons.  But, of course, the wind don't always blow and the sun is on a fixed schedule.

However, a big enough network can bring power from where the wind is blowing, the sun shining and there are work arounds like thermal/hydro storage.  Still, as the Bunny agreed in 2006

In a Science Policy Forum article entitled "A Road Map to US Decarbonization", (available in part in the Energy Bulletin) Reuel Shinnar and Francesco Citro point out that while nuclear is well suited to support baseload electricity generation, solar is ideal for handling peak demand, being most available, when most needed, during the hot days.
Moreover, we still have a decade or two where baseload could be handles by gas turbines which have spin up times under 30 minutes, and for those times when there is excess wind/solar, why free markets were made for bunnies who know an opportunity when they sniff it

oh yeah, Russell has a special on offer over at Real Climate



Sunday, July 09, 2017

Trump caught by his defamation of women he assaulted

Last fall I suggested both Trump and his campaign could and should be sued by the women he called "liars" when they accused him of assault. Trump also claimed he'd sue for defamation, that was just another lie of his.

So he has been sued, and is trying to wriggle out of it. We'll see what'll happen - the idea that defamation is legally-protected "hyperbole" won't go far, but the problem of suing in state court is a little more serious. The argument is that federal courts are supervised by the executive branch's co-equal, the Supreme Court, to prevent shenanigans while state courts are not. My understanding though is that it's usually not hard to find some reason to file a state law claim in federal court, so this is at most a delaying tactic.

Another issue is that only one woman has sued Trump so far out of the dozen or so he defamed (obviously suing a vindictive millionaire president is not an easy thing to do). A case would essentially come down to credibility - Trump has zero and could be torn apart in court, but you still need a significantly-more credible plaintiff. Playing the numbers game would help, but there's still time for others to bring their own suits.

I've got mixed feelings about the plaintiff lawyer being Gloria Allred. I consider it a strike against a lawyer to be one who hogs the limelight as opposed to lawyers who put the client in front while the lawyer concentrates on winning the case. OTOH, among Trump's many lies is that he doesn't settle suits - he settles them all the time. Allred as a great publicist could help make the downside for Trump sufficient that he settles. Again, we'll see what'll happen. 


Monday, July 03, 2017

Hoisted by my own petard

This picture of nothing is what used to be my favorite and most-convenient gas station, just a week or so ago. I doubt it'll be replaced by a gas station.

I stand by an argument I made four years ago that EVs will do more than become more convenient as they gain market share - they will create a virtuous cycle of making gas vehicles less convenient because the market supporting the gas engine infrastructure, like gas stations, will shrink.

In my case, there's another gas station almost as convenient as this one, but it only takes debit cards that aren't convenient for me. Others are a little further away, but the point remains that the convenience is decreasing. Gas stations are disappearing around the country - maybe EVs have only played a marginal role in that so far, but I expect they'll play a bigger role in the future, and still the balance between gas and EVs keep shifting.

I think in many or most two-car households, having at least one car be an EV is more convenient than two gas vehicles - you choose the EV for as many trips as possible and charge it up when you park or at home, and waste less time going to gas stations. As 200-mile EV range and fast-charging become standard, and as gas stations keep disappearing, the relative convenience will keep moving towards EVs and the virtuous cycle will accelerate.


UPDATE:  some good comments, as usual.
  •  I agree that increased fuel economy has reduced gas demand and gas station numbers, and that in turn reduces the convenience of gas engines. By itself though it's not a virtuous cycle, except to the extent that gas mileage improves further. Absent further improvement, there should be a stabilized point where the number of stations balance with the new, lower demand.

  • I also agree that factors making land more valuable for uses other than gas stations are the primary motivators so far in reducing station numbers, particularly in dense urban cores. While extraneous, this also reduces gas engine convenience. Like increased gas mileage, it only reduces convenience up to a point as opposed to being a virtuous cycle.

  • Fernando's right that gas stations will (and have) reacted to find non-gas ways to boost sales. As they go further in that direction though, they'll have fewer pumps or no pumps, and the inconvenience will still increase. 

  • Gas engine repair and maintenance will also become less convenient - EVs need less maintenance and different equipment, so fewer mechanics will train on gas engines. Those repair bays will get replaced with expanded coffee shops and (possibly) electric charging stations.

  • While EVs have only a small impact so far on gas demand, they can affect what's happening right now based on people's expectations of the future. Take for example a family business that owns a dozen gas stations, with the parents nearing retirement and kids deciding whether to take over versus having a very different career. Those kids may well be concerned about what EVs will do to the business in 10-15 years (and should be) and tell the parents to sell instead. Anyone else thinking of a 10-year investment knows there's a risk that EVs will significantly hurt the resale value. These EV effects on gas stations are happening now.

  • Not an expert on this, but I'm guessing that ultimately there's not much long-term future for stand-alone EV charging stations replacing gas pumps, except on interstate highways. As EV range gets further and further above 200 miles, and as fast chargers become ubiquitous at work, shopping, and home, there just won't be a need except on highways where lots of people are traveling long distances.

  • And finally, the above is mostly predictive rather than policy-related, but if the virtuous cycle is real then it does have policy implications. Aggressive long-term EV targets are achievable and should be pursued because there's a virtuous cycle effect we have barely experienced yet that will make them work. Outright bans on gas engine sales like those proposed in the future for Norway and elsewhere will be politically feasible because the writing will be on the wall concerning EV superiority.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Team B, Red Teaming and Steve Koonin

The Trump administration has been pushing the idea of a "Red Team" to re-examine the EPAs endangerment finding.  As Eli has pointed out, this is not a Red Team effort but a Team B attempt.  Red teams bring in experts in the field who have not been involved in a specific report to critically evaluate it.  Team B was a group run by Richard Pipes to exaggerate Soviet capabilities in the mid-1970s in order to justify an arms build up by tearing down CIA analysis.  Team B brings in ideologues to write a report that conforms to the ideology of those who commission their work. 

Joshua Rovner, in his book, Facixing the Facts, National Security and the Politics of Intelligence"points out where the Pipes Team B exercise went

The actual intelligence picture was irrelevant.  Team B simply assumed that Moscow was actively seeking any technology that would allow it to gain a decisive strategic advantage
 And Team B's imagination was quite fertile 
The Team B exercise corrupted the estimative process in ways that were wholly predictable.  The theoretical benefits of competition were lost because the composition of Team B was lopsided, because the panel spent as much time criticizing the intelligence community as it did evaluating the Soviet threat, and because the outside group relied on open sources.  The administration was warned of these problems in advance but did not intervene to insulate the NIE process from political bias.  On the contrary, it allowed the exercise to proceed in order to satisfy domestic political imperatives.
 There is much more at the link detailing the disastrous errors in the Team B report but the worst outcome was Star Wars, as the following Reagan administration used it as justification for the Star Wars build out. 

So let the bunnies count the ways that this administration's EPA administrator will build out his Team B
  • The membership of Team B Climate will be lopsided
  • Team B will spend as much time criticizing the IPCC and National Academy reports as evaluating the threat from climate change
  • Team B will rely on open sources, lord help us, like Watts Up With That, Curry's Climate Etc.
Any bunny thinking not, well Eli has a few carrots to wager on each proposition.

History Commons has a long discussion of Team B's fantasies including
Lack of Facts Merely Proof of Soviets' Success - One example that comes up during the debate is B’s assertion that the USSR has a top-secret nonacoustic antisubmarine system. While the CIA analysts struggle to point out that absolutely no evidence of this system exists, B members conclude that not only does the USSR have such a system, it has probably “deployed some operation nonacoustic systems and will deploy more in the next few years.” The absence of evidence merely proves how secretive the Soviets are, they argue. 
Climateball players have seen this before, and indeed, the run up to the Iraq War featured exactly the same playbook (see History Commons).

Brad Plumer points to Joseph Majkut at the Niskanen Center wondering what could be wrong with such an exercise.   Now Brad is a reasonable guy and the Niskanen Center is reasonable as real conservatives can be, but when Eli points out that the pawn is poison Majkut replies
Koonin, of course, is the apparatchik who tried to hijack the APS's drafting of their statement on climate change which required, amongst other things, that wiser heads on the drafting committee step in and Koonin huffing off in full regalia.  Eli has written several brilliant posts on the entire farrago but there was one thing that he missed coming from early on in the process, February 2013, which shows what Koonin was up to
The type of statement APS should make – simple & declarative or one that incorporates many details – needs consideration. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is also due to report on climate change in 2013; using their review as a trigger for an in-depth look at the APS statement is appropriate.

Commentary: J. Trebes agreed that using the IPCC review as a trigger is appropriate. Using it as a scientific basis for our statement will mitigate scientific argument within the APS. S. Koonin cautioned that APS should create its own statement and make its own judgment, separate from the IPCC report.
And he tried, oh my how he tried.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Russia, China, and cyber acts of war

I've been dumbfounded by the willingness/denialism of Republicans and of parties in other democracies to be the manipulated tools of the hostile Russian government. Apparently, rabid nationalism can be turned on and off as circumstances warrant.

OTOH, until recently I've been moderately less-exercised about what the Russians had actually done. Hostile countries steal secrets, so that level of espionage is standard activity. They also selectively release stolen secrets, leavened with lies, to weaken their opponents, so there's nothing out of line in that Russian behavior. What's out of line is that it actually contributed to their preferred candidate's success in the US, with little political blowback during the election (or afterwards).

Maybe this specific kind of election interference should be considered worse than it is normally considered as espionage, but the limited reprisal Obama has appeared to authorize seemed appropriate.

One thing that is different is the more recent news that Russian tried to do more than steal information and spread lies, but appear to have made a serious effort to hack the election systems. What I've read is that was more of a recon than an actual attempt to change the results, but it is different from everything else they did.

Everything else is normal espionage that requires a normal level of retaliation. Hacking an election to stop the elected candidate from getting office is overthrowing the American government, and it's an act of war. I think it's equivalent to an assassination attempt. Maybe it's not overtly violent, but unless you're a pacifist, there are things that are equivalent or worse than violence, and overthrowing democracy is one of them.

An act of war doesn't require a declaration of war in response, it just requires a proportionate response. Hacking the medical records of senior Russian officials and changing their medical prescriptions strikes me as a proportionate response.

I don't know if that needs to be done now (and won't anyway given that the Russian candidate now runs our country) but should be the guide for the future, and communicated to Russians for purposes of deterrence.

The one other factor that I haven't seen discussed is how Russian and Chinese behavior seem so different. China is our real, long-term rival. Putin's incompetence has used up half of the time Russia has to transform itself before oil becomes useless, and there's zero likelihood he'll now start a transition. China, on the other hand, is not engaged in these kinds of political attacks on the US, and that's interesting from a foreign policy perspective.

Seems like China is treating us a potential future enemy - its massive hacking of our systems are designed to crash those systems if it needs to in the future. Russia is treating us as a current enemy. Different tactics, requiring different responses from us.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Advice From teh Communicators

An evergreen across science communication is that scientists don't know how to communicate science.  Eli has confronted this issue before at the cost of ticking (permanently) off a bunch of communicators

. . .  a whole lot of other people appear to think that scientists are lousy communicators, and indeed, a whole lot of scientists agree and there are workshops, meetings and even, shudder, blogs, devoted to self improvement, or not. This goes into the file under missing the point.

It's not that scientists are or are not lousy communicators (say that and Eli will lock you in a room with Richard Alley for example), but that journalists are lousy communicators. It's their fucking (emphasis added) job and they are screwing it up to a fare-thee-well. It ain't just climate either. What journalists produce often makes the average cut and paste student paper blush with modesty
Well that, of course points to the communicators, who are not just journalists, and indeed some journalists are doing a good job communicating science, others, of course, not so much.  The not so much camp is dominated by the opinion communicators like Bret Stephens, like Matt King Coal Ridley, like James Didn't Read the Literature Delingpole and others.  The perversity of this is the New York Times, which hired at the same time Bret Stephens and Brad Palmer Plumer and now Lisa Friedman in addition to the esteemed Justin Gillis.  Of course what happens is the trio of reporters best stories get stepped on by the Opinion (don't have anything to do with us boss) Section's know nothings, the public hears cacophony, rolls eyes, decides nothing is settled, climate change is just a side show and moves on.

Of course, there are not just reporters, there are communications experts, the various deficit modelers and the cultural cognition folk and more.  Most of these are simply trying to cut themselves a piece of the pie.  RPJr when he was in the business was a great one for pie slicing.

ATTP has a recent comment on this based on a talk Doug McNeil gave.  And sums it up as
The environment can be difficult and challenging; we should try to say interesting things but also be careful of what we say; it should be relevant but not too complex; we should know the audience, and we should repeat the message.
As fate would have the June 2017 copy of APSNews came across Eli's mailbox (the Heartland Institute never set the Bunny so much as a cross word) and on the back page was an essay by Bill Foster, a member of the US House of Representatives and a PhD physicist who sums up science communication with this gem of advice
On the campaign trail, I learned that there is a long list of neurons that you have to deaden to convert a scientist's brain in to a politician's.  When you speak with voters, you must lead with conclusions rather than complex analysis of underlying evidence -- something that is very unnatural to a scientist.  You also have to repeat your main campaign message over and over again, since you will be lucky if a typical voter will hear you speak for a few seconds -- and those few seconds have to include your campaign message.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

0.04% Is a Lot of Molecules

An evergreen in the denial crowd is that CO2 is only a very small part of the atmosphere so how could it make a difference.

ADDED: In the comments Mark B points out that

The silliness is that it is precisely because CO2 is a very small part of atmosphere that humans are able to meaningfully change it's concentration. For example we are depleting O2 at the same rate as we are adding CO2, but the change is a negligible percentage of the normal content so only the most pedantic would dwell on it. That is, we've changed the CO2 concentration by about 45% and the O2 concentration by about 0.06%.
The short answer is that the atmosphere is very big.   Eli has a nice BOE (back of the envelope, not quite a Fermi problem but Eli would be quite pleased if others thought it in the neighborhood of same) answer

"... the estimation of rough but quantitative answers to unexpected questions about many aspects of the natural world. The method was the common and frequently amusing practice of Enrico Fermi, perhaps the most widely creative physicist of our times. Fermi delighted to think up and at once to discuss and to answer questions which drew upon deep understanding of the world, upon everyday experience, and upon the ability to make rough approximations, inspired guesses, and statistical estimates from very little data." 
 It starts by estimating the number of molecules in a m3 of air.  Well a Bunny who knew Loschmidt's number 2.7 x 1019 cm-3 or 2.7 x 1025 m-3  (which is the same thing since 1 m3 is 106 cm3 ) could start there or you could rearrange the ideal gas law
pV = nRT to n/V = p/RT
Since 1 atm is 101, 325 N/m², the gas constant R is  8.314 J K-1mol-1 and 0 C is 273 K
n/V = 101 325 N/m² /(8.314 J K-1mol-1 x 273.15 K) = 44.64 mol m-3 
which is a little surprising, since the average weight of a molecule of air is ~ 29 g or 0.029 kg so a cubic meter would weigh 1.3 kg but that is another direction.  In any case since there are 6.02 x 1023 molecules per mole that gives us Loschmidt's number again, in case a bunny has forgotten it or 2.69 x 1025 m-3.

If 400 ppm or 0.04% of that is CO2 there are  1.07 x 10 21 CO2 molecule in a cubic meter.  A useful estimate of the average distance between CO2 molecules is the inverse of the cube root. of the number density.  That is 4.5 x 10-8 m.

So how does that compare to the wavelength of light at which CO2 absorbs light in the IR.  Hmm, that's about 14 microns.  A micron is a millionth of a meter, So how many CO2 molecules are there along one wavelength of IR light where it is capable of absorbing.

About 300.

That's enough

Monday, May 29, 2017

Hybrid renewable systems

Kind of new to me, but obvious enough:  wind blows some of the time when the sun doesn't shine, so put wind generation and solar on the same location and reduce some infrastructure cost while getting less-intermittent power. Obviously it won't work everywhere, but it helps. I read somewhere (and sadly can't find the link now) that night winds are very reliable in India during monsoon season, and India's the big challenge now that China is all-in on renewables, so this could be huge.

Alternatives include renewables with large hydro and with power storage. And my personal favorite, floating solar panels.

Tangential thought: we would live in the energy world that denialists think we live in if it weren't for solar and wind (and soon, battery storage). I mean that denialists argue we can't maintain a modern lifestyle without fossil fuels. How that translates within their minds into climate change not happening is unclear, but regardless, that view of the energy picture has been wrong for a decade. And now even the denialists have to add a throwaway statement that "I support solar and wind too" before defending massive pollution of our environment.

Is it just luck that wind and solar and hopefully storage are taking off in terms of cost savings just in time to save us from ourselves? Certainly it's also a function of years of government-funded research, but other fields like wave power, instream hydro, and biofuels have had the same research with limited results. Maybe I'm just looking at the gift horse in the mouth, but if the technology for solar and wind were 20 years behind where they are today, then we'd be in a hell of a mess on climate. I'm curious why it's worked out relatively well.

Some thanks to Jimmy Carter perhaps, starting something that Reagan couldn't quite totally bollox?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Government Regulations and the Law of Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ms. Rabett when still employed worked in a nest of libertarian types who complained about how complicated government regulations were, and how it was stifling business and most importantly how they could make more money without them.  The same folk would wail about how bad government was when something bad happened and there was no law or regulation to stop it. There ought to be a law they screamed.

Now Ms. Rabett is more than somewhat of Eli's disposition or as she would say visa versa and she realized that governments do not always write crazy regulations to pass the time of day, but more often because some outstanding libertarian tries something crazy and goes nah nah there ain't no law agin it.  There are so many regulations because there are so many libertarians out there trying to game the system.

Many years ago, Angry Bear explained the Law of Chocolate Chip Cookies

So the process continues… Eventually, the Army has a spec that indicates even situations that a rational person would say – “This makes no sense. Everyone knows that.” But the rational person wouldn’t realize that when the Army specifies that no sawdust is to be used in making flour, or that no more than X parts of per million of rat droppings will be in the cookie, that the Army has a damn good reason for having that in there, namely that some upstanding leader of the community who waves a flag and is a member of the local Kiwanis actually tried to pass such things off on American military personnel. And of course, that upstanding leader of the community who waves a flag and is a member of the local Kiwanis is happy to lecture one and all about how much more efficient the private sector is than the public sector – exhibit A being the Army’s specs on making a chocolate chip cookie.

CO2 Atmospheric Absorption Is NOT Saturated

It is certainly an evergreen claim by the climate change disbelievings crew that the absorption of CO2 in the atmosphere is saturated.  What does saturated mean to them is a useful question to ask. A useful answer would be that the atmosphere is optically thick at the greenhouse effect relevant frequencies/wavelengths where CO2  absorbs, between about 620 and 840 cm-1.

It would also be useful to describe what is meant by optically thick and optically thin.  To do that we first need to define optical depth.  Optical depth is the fraction of light blocked in passing through a medium.  The transmission is the percentage of light that gets through.  Something is optically thick at a particular wavelength if no light can get through it, It is optically thin if most or all of the light can get through.  If an absorption is not optically thick, it can't be saturated

If the disbelievers are right at current concentrations CO2 is optically thick over the entire region.

We can check on that using Spectral Calc, a program that allows us to calculate the spectrum based on precision and verified measurements.  Let us imagine that the atmosphere is a tube with 400 ppm CO2 at 296K.  How much of the light is absorbed in a 1 m tube


At this point those interested in only the bottom line can skip down to the bottom of the post and pick up the figure the bunnies need for their tweet.

ORIENTATION

Most of the spectrum is due to transitions from the CO2 ground vibrational level to the first excited vibrational level  The sharp peak in the center is called the Q branch composed of lines that are very close together and corresponds to transitions where the rotation(al quantum number) of the molecule does not change.  The band to the left is the P-branch for transitions where the rotational quantum number decreases by 1.  The band to the right is the R-branch where the rotational quantum number increases by 1.

The two little sharp peaks to the right and left of the main bands are Q-branch transitions between excited vibrational levels.  Even at room temperature a small percentage of the molecules are vibrationally excited by collision.  Of course, they can also lose energy by collisions but there is an equilibrium between excitation and de-excitation by collisions with nitrogen and oxygen molecules (mostly) and a thermally driven equilibrium population in each vibrational level.  If a bunny squints really hard she can see the corresponding P and R-branches. These are called hot bands. Why the excited vibrational levels are split and even what excited levels they connect is complicated.  Google books provides an explanation.

If the distance is increased to 10 meters the lines of the 0-1 band are optically thick but there is still space between them, however, the lines do have wings and the wings overlap so even over a 10 m path, there is a noticeable underlying continuum mostly caused by collisional broadening.  The hot bands on either side of the Q branch are now easy to see.  The Q branch 0-1 band is optically thick
At 100 m or 0.1 km the 0-1 transition is almost optically thick and the 1-2 bands are very clear.  Using the squintosope, Q branches for higher lying hot bands can be seen at the edges
For a 1 km path length, most of the 0-1 transition is optically thick (saturated in the disbelieving sense) but light from the surface would still be seen in the wings, where the hot bands are.  
BOTTOM LINE
Finally at 10 km, while the center of the CO2 absorption is optically thick, there are still regions of the spectrum where light from the surface will get through the atmosphere.
Of course, increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will decrease the transmission in the wings of the bands.  At 560 ppm
and returning to 280 ppm
There are a few things that Eli has not considered in this post but they all would DECREASE the calculated optical thickness. Temperature and pressure decrease with altitude.  This post assumes both are constant. Their effects will be considered in detail in follow on posts,  Simply put the optical depth is directly proportional to density and path length, thus decreasing density with altitude, decreases the average optical depth and increases transmission across the spectrum.  Second at lower temperature there is less population in the excited vibrational levels and the hot bands at the edges of the spectrum are weaker, decreasing the optical depth in the wings, and increasing it in the center 0-1 band.  Since the 0-1 band IS optically thick at very small path lengths anyhow, this increases transmission.  Third, each of the lines is substantially broadened at atmospheric pressure.  A narrower comb of lines is optically thinner.  This would substantially decrease the continuum absorption between the lines.

Bottom line, the 667 cm-1 CO2 vibrational absorption is not optically thick across the entire region of absorption. It is not saturated.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What Rich Lowry said about Erdogan thugs attacking protestors in America

He got this one right, at least. Go read.

You don't often get a chance to read a National Review piece and agree with every word.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Probably Not The Place For This


Eli has been watching the reports on today's Senate hearing which features the Ted Cruz - Sally Yates death match.  The general feeling is that Yates did to Cruz what Macron did to Le Pen.  However, rather than getting too deeply into the legal parts of their interchange, the Rabett would like to point out that Yates READ most of her initial answer to Cruz (starting at 1:49 in the video below).

She was clearly prepared for the question.




You might ask what little birdy whispered in her ear, well, let's go to the video from three months ago




Somebunny was paying attention.

Friday, May 05, 2017

The New York Times approach to climate change


Behold the CrapWaffler, the writer that the New York Times thinks is a contribution to the climate change debate. It's what happens when you hire a climate denialist with the implied condition of employment that they can't completely lie about climate change, but merely smear uncertainty and misdirection about undertaking reasonable action (and Stephens still managed to get important things wrong).

The New York Times thinks it has added to the breadth of discussion on climate by getting as close to wrong as possible while not saying much of anything.



Stephens is shocked, shocked, that people would accuse him of "closet climate denialism". The term denier fit Stephens perfectly in 2015 when he wrote that temperatures would be about the same in 100 years, unless he was lying at the time about what he believed. It would be helpful if he now said his beliefs had changed, but all we get instead is crapwaffles.

I often read Razib Khan, an old-school Burkean conservative who also writes a lot about science. Several years back the NY Times hired him and then quickly dismissed him - he had unwisely associated with some simply vile racists, and guilt by association was enough to deem him unacceptable. I disagree, but to think Stephens, whose range is from wrong to crapwaffle, is better just tells you something about the Times. I recently subscribed to the Washington Post instead.

So skip Stephens, and read Razib to see what a thoughtful conservative would say.

P.S. And fellow bloggers, a reminder to add "no follow" whenever you link to Stephens. I'm pretty good about that when linking to denialists


Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Renewable Energy and Creative Construction


One of the weirdest flips in an exceedingly weird year has been the usual suspects going into complete meltdown about there now being extended periods where there is so much renewable energy from wind and solar and hydro that they are not just giving it away, they are paying you to take some of it.

Electricity has become like zucchini at the end of the summer, when gardeners leave a few hundred pounds on your doorstep, ring the bell and run.  Remember when the fusion and fission folk were talking about too cheap to meter, it's now a "problem" for renewables.

In any case, when there is money blowing in the wind somebunny will make money while the sun shines, and indeed this is a classic capitalist system opportunity, that somehow all the Randians and Trumplets let alone your average garden variety Bret Stephens don't appear happy with.  If there is a price differential arbitraging the electricity price is a great way to get rich and the technologies already exist.

There has always been a price differential between wee hours of the morning and the peak demand daylight hours, a differential that many industries have taken advantage of.  The guys with the green plastic eyeshades are no bunny's fools
Kentucky Electric Steel spends a lot of time and money trying to control our electric bill, over $2 million spread over the past eight years. This has reduced energy intensity from 743 kWh per billet ton in 2002 to 480 kWh per billet ton today. That represents an annual savings of over $600k with just our night-time operations; the savings would be even more if we ran during on peak hours, except that the higher power cost would eat them up! 
Aluminum smelters in Germany are already lapping up some of the freibier by using the molten metal as an energy storage medium from whose cooling they can draw power
By varying the rate at which the metal is produced, the plant will be able to adjust the power consumption of the 290-megawatt smelter up and down by about 25 percent. Trimet can soak power from the grid when energy is cheap. It can then resell the power when demand is at its peak. The company can temporarily reduce its power consumption by slowing the electrolysis, cutting the energy drain.
Using stored thermal energy is really old technology.  Ice houses that lasted through the desert summer have existed like forever in Iran and storage of heat from the summer to use in the winter is also a Canadian reality (tip o the ears to Andy Skuce )
The first of its kind in North America, DLSC is heated by a district system designed to store abundant solar energy underground during the summer months and distribute the energy to each home for space heating needs during winter months.
For decades large building have built tons of ice at night when electricity is inexpensive and used the ice to cool the building during the day.  Going by the name of ice storage air conditioning, the technique is now moving into residential units.  Eli first became aware of it in the context of labs using large ice systems for to supply coolants for lasers.  Storage heaters are also coming back driven by the low cost of renewable thermal.

So the next time your electric provider tries to leave some zucchini on your doorstep, smile and use it to charge your batteries, heat or cool your house or some other creative construction.


Friday, April 28, 2017

The Data Lies. The Crisis in Observational Science and the Virtue of Strong Theory


The problem with data fetishists is their choking down a daily flagon of numerical drivel without analyzing the brew.  One of the things that a good scientist knows is how to interrogate the numbers, not waterboard them.  Truth is that useful models improve flaky data and the statistical treatment thereof.

An introduction  for Eli was a talk that Drew Shindell gave, twenty maybe more years ago with a title that ran, "Which should your trust, the data or the models?" about global temperature data in the late 19th century.  The useful conclusion was trust neither, but use them together to produce understanding and improve both.  Yes theory can improve measurements and data.

A nice example is how NIST's acoustic thermometer can be used to define the thermodynamic temperature scale.  Starting with the theoretical result for the speed of sound in an ideal gas as a function of temperature (theory), a carefully built device to measure the same can be used to build a model of the response of platinum resistance thermometers as a function of temperature and then by applying the model PRTs can be used to more accurately calibrate other thermometers.

How about statistics, well most of what passes for statistical analysis these day is unconstrained, so it can wander off into never never land where never is stuff like thermodynamics and conservation laws.  Bart had a nice example of this when discussing the usual nonsense about how observed temperature anomaly data could be explained as a random walk

As you can see, the theory is valid: My weight has indeed remained between the blue lines. And for the next few years, my weight will be between 55 and 105 kg, irrespective of what I eat and how much I sport! After all, that would be deterministic, wouldn’t it? (i.e. my eating and other habits determining my weight)

Wow, if that’s the case, then I’ll stop my carrot juice diet right now and run to the corner store for a box of mars bars!! And I’ll cancel further consultations with my dietician. Energy balance… such nonsense. Never thought I’d be so happy with a root!
The other side of this is the replication crisis hitting the social sciences, most prominently psychology, well, also other stuff.  To disagree with the first link, unlike physical sciences psychology has no well established theoretical consensus against which nutso outcomes can be evaluated. Science is about coherence (a no on that as Alice’s Queen would say) consilience (baskets full of papers having nothing to do with each other but taken together mutually supporting) and consensus (everybunny with a clue agrees on climate change or at least 97%).

So the question really is what should a lagomorphs's prior be for statistical validity.  Clearly, if all you have is the data, the standard of proof for any assertion about the data has to be very high.  Wrong answers at low levels of proof are a reason that out on the edge physicists demand 5 sigma data before accepting that a new particle has been found, that's saying that there is 1 chance in 3.5 million that the discovery was in error if that standard is met. 

On the other hand, in the well established interior of a field, where there is a lot of supporting, consilient work, a whole bunch of basic theory and multiple data sets, 5 chances in 100 can do the job or even 10 in a hundred.  Of course 30 in 100 is pushing it.

Andrew Gelman has a useful set of criteria for priors (same holds for frequentist approaches).  Among his recommendations are for weakly informative priors that
should contain enough information to regularize: the idea is that the prior rules out unreasonable parameter values but is not so strong as to rule out values that might make sense
and those priors should be
Weakly informative rather than fully informative: the idea is that the loss in precision by making the prior a bit too weak (compared to the true population distribution of parameters or the current expert state of knowledge) is less serious than the gain in robustness by including parts of parameter space that might be relevant. It's been hard for us to formalize this idea.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

March for Science - San Francisco

Together with in-laws and friends, including (unlike me) an actual scientist, we went on the march in San Francisco yesterday.






The most hand-written/individualized signs I've seen on any march. Quite a young crowd too, and I'd guess two-thirds female. We'll see if there's a long-term effect - I'm sure it depends on what people continue to do after the march.

UPDATE:  here's something to do about it - get organized, and train to run for office:
Overview: Join us for a day of building political power for the climate movement by training bold, progressive climate activists to elected office at all levels. Potential candidates need to be identified, recruited, trained, and supported in order to achieve elected office—and once there, held accountable by the climate movement.

This training is for you if:
  • You consider running for office yourself in the next 1-3 years
  • You want to help a friend run for office
  • You want to learn how a local electoral strategy could help your campaign

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Squeegee Kid Returns or Steve Koonin on Team B


Eli had a rockem sockem post cued up on the replication crisis (nononono, Eli and Ms. Rabett are much too old for that stuff) but the Squeegee Kid, Steve Koonin reappeared in the Wall Street Journal editorial swamp and duty calls.  When last see, Koonin was huffing off in anger because APS (American Physical Society) leadership had frustrated his designs on their public statement on Climate Change.

Those looking for a primer about Koonin's understanding of climate science could read the short version from Ben Santer who had the pleasure of dealing with him in the red team/blue team exercise that Koonin put together for the APS panel

Another source of real frustration is that Dr. Koonin had a real opportunity to listen. To consult experts in many different aspects of climate science. To do a deep dive into the science. To seek understanding of complex scientific issues. He did not make use of this opportunity. His op-Ed is not a deep dive - it is a superficial toe-dip into a shallow puddle, rehashing the same tired memes (the "warming hiatus" points toward fundamental model errors, climate scientists suppress uncertainties, there's a lack of transparency in the IPCC process, climate always varies naturally, etc.)
or somewhat less pithy though pointed ones from Andy Lacis and Ray Pierrehumbert.

Suffice it to say there is little new in Koonin's latest jeremiad which is merely a continuation of the House Science Committee farce w/o Mike Mann.  As the Weasel has pointed out we have had over 30 years of real red team evaluations of climate science
Well to start with it isn’t necessarily totally stupid, unless it is being run by a group of ideologues with a fore-ordained conclusion for which they’re desperately searching for evidence. How likely is that? Secondly, this is language from a different area (the military; business) being imported into science. If it was being done by the pols, you could simply put it down to ignorance. That it is being done by scientists in an effort to sell their ideas to pols I think you put down to something rather different. But the military and business are areas with rigid hierarchies and enforced obedience and suppression of dissent. C+C are trying to tell the pols that science is like that; and it isn’t. Science already provides all the internal red teams that it needs.

Could the idea actually be of any use? In the present context, I think that’s doubtful. Suppose they did it anyway, what happens? Probably, C+C and their ilk get thrown some taxpayers money to attack their should-be-colleagues, which would be galling but minor in the great scheme of things. They would fail to do anything of scientific use, and that failure might ultimately be revealing, and therefore good. But in the meantime they get a platform to spout nonsense. Ah well, these are difficult times, you cannot expect to choose amongst different good outcomes.
Among the many red team exercises in the US there have been multiple NAS reports on climate change and particular issues involved with climate change.  A major outcome of one was to put the wood to Spencer and Christie's UAH satellite record which was claiming global cooling because of errors.  Then, of course, the Jason (Koonin is one of them) model from the early 1980s as well.  IPCC reports are also massive red team exercises with open commenting.

But as the Weasel points out what the worthies want is not a red team exercise, but Team B.  Team B was a politically motivated operation run by Richard Pipes and populated by ideologues whose reason for existing was to exaggerate the threat from the Soviet Union.  There was a long campaign to impugn the CIA analysis, resulting in the formation of Team B under Pipes leadership.  Their report was a major impetus to the dangerous arms race of the 1980s including the fictional Star Wars programs pushed by the late, and not lamented George Marshall Institute.  As one critic of Team B, Anne Hessing Cahn, wrote of their report "I would say that all of it was fantasy. ... if you go through most of Team B's specific allegations about weapons systems, and you just examine them one by one, they were all wrong."

Joshua Rovner, in his book, Facixing the Facts, National Security and the Politics of Intelligence"points out where the Pipes Team B exercise went
The fundamental criticism of Team B was that the intelligence [read climate science-ER] community relied almost exclusively on "hard data" about capabilities. . . 
an eerie prequel to where Koonin, Curry and Christie want to go. Following Rovner, Eli can also tell you what Team B's report will be based on
Team B also defeated the purpose of the exercise by relying on open source publication rather than classified intelligence.  Although the panelists were cleared to evaluate the same data that went into the NIE [National Intelligence Assessment -ER] the Team B report contained very few references to intelligence.
Perhaps they will also cite Rabett Run, but more likely all the nonsense in WUWT and Curry's blog.  If anybunny wants to save money, of course, we also have any number of publications from the Heartland Institute that can be had for a penny or two. 

Okay, now that the bunnies have done their assigned reading Eli can flip the blog and let them loose in the comments

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

On the Uses of Twitter


One of the good things about 140 characters is that it concentrates the mind and lets you compose your elevator speech.  One of the bad things is that while concentrating the mind and composing the elevator speech you forget to write it down.

So Eli, aka @EthonRaptor (Ms. Rabett came up with the moniker) has been exchanging  with various characters on the Tweeter about renewable energy, nuclear energy and carbon taxes (go read the timeline if you really care) and this has indeed conciliated a few thoughts.

http://learn.eartheasy.com/
To start from somewhere, in a discussion about Energy Star and the Trumpkins wiping out the program (they have zeroed out the web site although parts seem to still exist at DOE )  definitely down last night, but Eli, fool that he is did not Webcite it) and appliance energy efficiency regulations, Eli remarked that people buy on purchase price and ignore operating, maintenance and disposal costs.  One of the things that the Energy Star program does (did :) was to put some of the operating cost in front of the buyer along with the purchase price.  Moreover testing regulations insured that the numbers were not totally alt facts, although as with everything formative improvement was always needed  (see VW)

ADDED: Energy Star is zeroed out in the Trump budget.  If Energy Star is going on hiatus, then this is a place for the manufacturers to establish an Underwriters Lab for efficiency.  All electrical devices in the US are certified by Underwriters Labs not to be fire hazards.  The insurance companies established and fund UL because at the turn of the century too many electrical appliances were starting fires or sauteing people, and some sort of testing and certification was needed to limit loses.  An Energy Star operation could charge manufacturers for testing and use of the brand. What it could do immediately is to re-publish the Energy Star website  before Scott Pruitt sends it down the rat hole.  Anybunny have a spare server?   The info is a US Government publication and there is no copyright.  There is money to be made here folks and this would be a great opening for a Kickstarter operation.  It would be a natural for Consumer Reports.

Eli's original though still holds, things are bought on purchase price.  Very few think about lifetime, operating and disposal costs without prodding from regulations and SJWs.

Which brings the Bunny to Part Two.  What is the probability of a nuclear revival in the US.

Zero

The reason is very much the same as what happens when a bunny purchases a carrot storage device aka refrigerator (Eli does leave a bit of room for Ms. Rabett's yogurt,  after  all, she is his muse).

Nuclear power plants have a)very high capital costs and b) very high decommisioning costs although operating costs are very low.  From the standpoint of a utility, a nuclear plant requires a large investment before it begins to generate revenue, and a pretty well undefined commitment for decommisioning.  Since b) has to be carried on the spreadsheet as a liability, and the actual cost is pretty well undefined the CFO of a utility would have to be insane to agree to building a nuclear plant.

To be clear, this is not the case where the plant is built by a government  or a government entity like China, or EDF or TVA because their time horizon extends well beyond the next quarter.

It also explains why natural gas is being substituted for coal.  Not only is natural gas cheaper, the capital costs of natural gas power plants are lower, they are more modular and they can be slotted into existing spaces, built faster, etc.  and oh yes, much less polluting even if you consider greenhouse gases and nothing else.  The nothing else is the ground level pollution of the air and water that makes Chinese and Indian cities so deadly today, and Western cities so deadly yesterday.  It costs capital to clean coal emissions up and safely dispose of the ash and that erodes any desire of utilities to continue investing in coal.

Let us not talk about the energy and $ cost of carbon capture.  Even there natural gas has a big advantage.  Carbon capture technology from the smokestack will require serious cleaning of the emissions.  Capture from the ambient air, is IEHO, the affliction of science.  Of course if the utilities can dump the emissions and the ash wherever, that encourages investment in coal.  Coal is the ultimate tragedy of the commons.  To deal with it requires moving those costs onto the utilities and mines balance sheets. Utilities need to be exposed to the cost of their emissions to move them away from fossil fuels.

Renewables are a different balance.  Operating costs are small but capital costs are high although decreasing.  The modularity of renewables is a great advantage over nuclear which comes in single ginourmous lumps with long construction times.  A single wind turbine, by nature requires only a small investment.  As with gas turbines, the wind/solar components can be mass produced in factories and shipped to the assembly site. Wind farms/solar can be installed in smaller chunks each of which comes on line as finished and can start to immediately generate revenue to support further installations.

So the action on the power generation front is going to be renewables vs. natural gas. 

So what is needed

1.  Regulations to limit the worst emissions, quantify costs and show them explicitly to the public.  Limitations are necessary for those emissions whose cost is so high that their effects are immediate and dangerous, such as lead and NOx. 

2.  A  tax on greenhouse gas emissions which would either displace other taxes or be rebated.  See Eli Rabett's simple plan to save the world the brilliance of which is that it really would not require Trump to sign on, if the rest of the developed world did.

Having solved all problems, Eli hops on.


Moresuch on Gorsuch

Read Mashey. Definitely plagiarism, and Gorsuch didn't read "his" primary sources (e.g. a court case that was sealed years prior to Gorsuch, after the author who Gorsuch copied had read the filings). The claims by his academic defenders, who should've been supervising him better, that you're supposed to cite primary sources and not secondary ones are laughable in these circumstances. Like Wegman, I'm not sure how they're supposed to supervise students given what they say is acceptable.

Academia does give you the ability to cite primary sources you haven't read, btw:  you cite the secondary source you have read as then citing the primary source that you wish you had read. This way you get to make your point while acknowledging that your support for it is flimsy - an honest way to go about the work.

If more of this stuff turns up in Gorsuch's background then he'll be a crippled member of the Supreme Court.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

First Quarter of 2017 Is Warmer Than the 2016 Annual Average

January through March anomaly is 1.04C above the already-warmed 1950-1980 baseline. The record-warm 2016 was .98C above. I hadn't thought there'd be any chance that a (so far) non-El Nino year would beat the 2016 record, but now I'm not so sure.

Who knows what regression to the mean means anymore for climate, but given even odds I'd still guess 2016 will come out on top. And OTOH given even odds I'd say 2017 will beat 2015's former warmest record of .86C. I'd take some level of odds against me that 2017 will be at least the third-warmest year on record, easily beating 2014's former warmest record of .74C. The rest of 2017 would have to average below .64C to end up less than 2014, a temperature that was typical 10 years ago but not anymore.

UPDATE May 22:  see the comments, April data is coming in.  April for GISS is the coolest month yet, and it's still slightly warmer than 2015. Temps will now have to drop significantly lower than 2015 for the rest of the year if that year will end up warmer than this. So it's nearly a lock that 2017 is one of the two warmest years on record, it's just unclear if it's #1 or #2.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Reverse Auction Referees Reports: Longer Than a Tweet, Shorter Than a Post


Eli notes periodical (every 6.77 months) discussions about why the hell has my paper not been reviewed in six months and the double reverse, who the hell has time symphony.  The bunny has a simple suggestion, editors should send their begs with an accompanying set of set of rules, For example

1. Do the review in ten days and win $30
2,   Do the review in twenty days and win $15
3.    Take longer and we have a list of where to send your next paper.
Now somebunnies will argue that the publishers are going broke as it is, but think, they could surely offer discounts on the next set of publication charges, Even better they could offer transferable certificates that could be traded for such things as pizzas and maybe even lab supplies.  A chocolate bar or even a carrot in the mail would go far with Eli.

Of course, some have seen the light.  Unfortunately none that Eli reviews for

Thursday, April 06, 2017

The Other Ethics Problem for Gorsuch That's Not Being Discussed

So Gorsuch has something of a plagiarism problem. This is 100% plagiarism without question. Less certain is if it's intentional plagiarism or incompetent writing, and more broadly whether what we're seeing is the whole extent of the problem and just the start. Another ethical layer is whether the plagiarism is originally Gorsuch's plagiarism or from an unacknowledged researcher whose work Gorsuch put out at as his own.

Years ago I was in a somewhat similar situation as Gorsuch (minus the hypothetical unacknowledged researcher). I was writing a chapter of a book on legal issues and like him I relied heavily on a law review article. In my case and unlike Gorsuch, I took a paragraph or two from the article, condensed them down to a sentence in my own words, and then cited the article. I repeated this multiple times. This is how I avoided "patchwriting," switching a few words here and there as Gorsuch did. There's a cost to this approach - the chapter wasn't as fully fleshed out as I wanted, and the heavy reliance on that one source could not have been more plain - but at least it was honest. It also cost me a lot of time to do this, so I'm not impressed with his alternative.

There is another ethics problem to what Gorsuch did that hasn't been touched AFAICT. He switched a few words from other people's works while keeping everything else the same, including their citations, and that's the problem - it is highly likely that he never verified the accuracy of those citations. When someone is cutting and pasting texts after massaging a few words, it seems there's very little chance the plagiarist spent the much greater amount of time to look up the citations. Gorsuch has no idea if his citations say what he says they say, and that's unethical.

One problem however is going from highly likely to proven - how do we show that he never checked them? Someone with the time can go and look them up, I suppose, and then it could come down to the accuracy of the author whose work was stolen.

Again this could be sloppy, incompetent plagiarism instead of an intentional practice, and it could have been him sponging off of a researcher. What really matters is if it happened a significant number of times in his work.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Communicating Science Uncertainty


Eli has been listening to young folks talk about science teaching and science listening.  Although this will be a very short post, IEHO it is worthy of more than a few comments.

Allow Eli to start with a college student's observation that scientists have trouble communicating to the public because they are used to the give and take of talking with other scientists where everybunny is free to quibble, make errors and disagree but to be taken seriously one must remain within the well proven boundaries of common knowledge.  Understanding grows through the interchange but if you fail the bullshit tests and remain obdurate, others simply roll their eyes and walk.

According to the student, and Eli agrees, this is confusing to the broad public for reasons that are partially explained below.

The second point, made by a younger student, is that running the K-12 standardized testing gauntlet does not prepare kids for any kind of intellectual give and take, nor do textbooks encourage same.  Multiple choice questions have ABCD (maybe E) answers and the students never learn how to engage in the give and take of scientific discourse.  Textbooks do not usually help much if at all.  To be honest, most university, let alone K-12 science teachers themselves are uncomfortable about teaching through argumentation although there is movement, at least at the college level towards experiential learning through guided discourse.  Note that guided, it is not free form, there are constraints and the lessons have to be carefully planned to work otherwise the students wander off into denial land and worse.

Now, as much fun as it is to engage with the Willards o the Wisp the constraints of reality are what bounds scientific discourse.  Eli's recent ruminations on the greenhouse effect and gravity as well as the comments are good examples of the characteristic give and take, how strong constraints from distance can set the limits for basic processes that apparently have little to do with the bounding forces, and eye rolls when the denial starts.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Trump's War on Coal Country and Humanity

From The Roanoke Times editorial, "Trump breaks a promise to coal country":


Whenever Donald Trump campaigned in Southwest Virginia last year, he invariably talked up his support for coal. He also talked up a specific way he’d do it – by investing in the “clean coal” technology that can scrub some of the carbon out of coal emissions...

The technology – officially called “carbon capture” – does work. What doesn’t work – not yet anyway – is a business model that makes carbon capture profitable. That hasn’t stopped the research, though. Some of that research is taking place through the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech, which since 2009 has used an $11.5 million federal grant to test carbon capture at mines in Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia.

Carbon capture research may have the goal of creating environmentally-friendly coal but environmentalists haven’t exactly been keen on it. They see “clean coal” as prolonging an industry they’re reflexively against. Still, if even Barack Obama – famous for waging a “war on coal” – could see fit to include more than $3 billion for clean coal research in his stimulus package, surely Trump would do even better, right?

Wrong.

Trump’s proposed budget cuts funding for energy research by almost 18 percent — $2 billion. Because the proposed budget came with few details attached, it’s unclear just how much, if any, money would remain for the Office of Fossil Energy to spend on clean coal research. It’s notable that some conservative groups – specifically the influential Heritage Foundation, whose ideas formed the basis for Trump’s budget – had proposed eliminating the office entirely....

Something is not right with this picture: Obama did more for clean coal research than Trump is, yet it was Trump who ran on a platform of “we’re going to go clean coal.” ....the budget that Trump has proposed undercuts the region’s ability to develop a new economy at almost every turn:

n Trump wants to eliminate the Appalachian Regional Commission, an agency that awards grants for economic development projects....

n Trump wants to eliminate the Economic Development Administration, an agency that awards grants for economic development projects in economically-distressed areas across the country....Want to know something else curious? Obama directed the EDA to pay special attention to coal communities; now Trump wants to get rid of the program entirely.

n Trump wants to eliminate the Abandoned Mine Land program, which has provided $90 million for the nation’s three biggest coal states – West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania – to turn old mine sites into potential economic development sites....

Appalachia gave Trump its love – and its votes. In return, Trump backhands some of his strongest supporters....The Trump vision for coal counties seems to be limited simply to hoping traditional coal mining will come back and nothing more....

Is that really what people in the coalfields voted for?

Trump may help some CEOs out, but it's not just the future of the rest of the world that Trump is screwing over, it's coal country's possible future. I've noted the repeated failure of carbon capture and sequestration, and its failure is no victory for environmentalists - the pathways limiting climate change to 2C or less rely often (always?) on negative carbon emissions, and CCS is key to that.

Trump says the words "clean coal" and then eviscerates environmental regulation of coal mining and funding for CCS. As the editorial shows, he's trying to cut funding that would give any alternative future to coal country, and of course he won't do the coal miner pension protection that Hillary proposed.

All this on top of the lies about climate change and the attempted rollback of major American programs like the Clean Power Plan and vehicle emission regulations. The world is kicked in the teeth, and coal country is no better off than the rest of us.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Gravity, the Greenhouse Effect and Surface Temperature


When Eli last left the bunnies, he was pointing out how gravity explains much of the greenhouse effect, well, except for the part that you need some things in the atmosphere that absorb IR radiation from the surface.

The first is the lapse rate, the decline of temperature with altitude in the troposphere.  There are plenty of detailed derivations of the dry lapse rate on the net and a bunny can even throw in some water vapor, but the basic principle is that the atmosphere is for all thermodynamic purposes an ideal gas, and the temperature decreases with pressure, and pressure decreases with altitude because of gravity. 
The second is the decrease in density with altitude, again because pressure decreases with altitude because of gravity.  The higher you go the less stuff 
Both of these effects explain why radiative energy transfer from the ground to space slows, the higher greenhouse gas concentrations are.  
In a shortly following post the Rabett quoted pretty much the same from J.S. Sawyer, written in 1972
The chief effect of increasing carbon dioxide is that the gas which is radiating heat to space is found at a higher level in the atmosphere than before - the radiation from lower down in the atmosphere is absorbed by the extra carbon dioxide above and then reradiated to space.  In the troposphere, at least, temperature decreases with height so the effective radiating temperature of the carbon dioxide becomes lower if the amount of the gas is increased and therefore less heat is radiated to space.  Thus the additional carbon dioxide tends to act as a blanket which keeps the Earth warmer - the Earth has to get rid of the incoming radiation from the Sun, and the same amount can only be removed if the temperature of the atmosphere rises a little.
But, to be honest there was some handwaving there, namely the mechanism for heating the surface when the radiating layer moved up.  Ferren in a comment provided the link.  As shown in the figure, when the radiating level moves up because the CO2 mixing ratio increases, since the lapse rate (the slope) stays constant, the surface temperature increases and, of course, the reason the lapse rate stays constant is that it is fixed by gravity.


Anybunny who wants to deny that the greenhouse effect exists or that increasing greenhouse gas concentrations will not warm the surface is denying the law of gravity, which is pretty basic.  Given that humidity increases with temperature, they are also going to have to deny a fair bit of thermodynamics to claim that the concentration of water vapor in the atmosphere will not occur.